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Runic Dictionary

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Hrólfs saga kraka (Hrólf)

Skaldic vol. 8; ed. †Desmond Slay

verse introduction manuscripts contents

Hrólfs saga kraka ‘The saga of Hrólfr Pole-ladder’ (Hrólf) is an anonymous fornaldarsaga based on Danish legendary history. Although the subject-matter has connections with earlier Old English (Beowulf, Wīdsīð) and other Scandinavian literatures, including Saxo’s Gesta Danorum, it is generally held that the composition of the extant version of the saga may be placed in the fourteenth century. Parts of the subject-matter may be very old in origin, but the prose and the poetry match, except perhaps in the first and last two stanzas. In the latter case, there are versions of the text in the mss of SnE, and these have been chosen as the basis for this edition on the grounds of metrical superiority. Otherwise the poetry is normalised to the same standard as the rest of the poetry in this volume (see discussion of normalisation in the Introduction to SkP VIII, Section 8).

There are forty-five known mss of Hrólf. The conclusion reached in Hrólf 1960 and the companion volume (Slay 1960b) is that all the mss known then, which date from the seventeenth century and later, are derived from one lost common original, which itself may have been from the sixteenth century. This is not modified by three later articles on further mss (Slay 1970, 260-8; 1981, 432-9; 1994, 59-61). For both the prose of the saga and the stanzas in it, there are fourteen primary mss, but they are not of equal value, and for practical purposes it is permissible to confine attention to five mss; a sixth was given a place in Hrólf 1960, but it was not very useful in textual criticism. The five are: AM 285 4°ˣ (285ˣ), AM 9 folˣ (), AM 11 folˣ (11ˣ), AM 109 a II 8°ˣ (109a IIˣ) and Holm papp 17 4°ˣ (papp17ˣ); 285ˣ is the main ms. for this edition. It is also the basis for an electronic edition of the saga (Driscoll et al. 2013) on the Stories for All Time web site. The other primary mss, which are not used in this edition, are: AM 10 folˣ, AM 12 b folˣ, GKS 1002 folˣ, NKS 339 8°ˣ, Holm papp 1 folˣ, Holm papp 13 4°ˣ, Lbs 633 folˣ, Adv 21 4 17ˣ and Add 11,162 4°ˣ. The remaining thirty-one mss, judged to be secondary mss, are not listed here. References to the saga are given below only to Hrólf 1960, which superseded earlier editions for textual matters. Stanzas 1-6 are edited in Edd. Min. with the title Aus der Vaterrache der Hálfdanssöhne ‘From the revenge of the Hálfdanarsynir for their father’.

The single lines given here as sts 10 and 11 also occur in Skm (SnE 1998 I, 59), in mss R (GKS 2367 4°, c. 1300), (Codex Trajectinus, Traj 1374ˣ, c. 1595), W (Codex Wormianus, AM 242 fol, c. 1350), U (Codex Upsaliensis, DG 11, c. 1300-25) and C (AM 748 II 4°, c. 1400). The lines are worded differently in several respects in this older work. Ms. R is the main ms. for sts 10-11.

All eleven stanzas or parts of stanzas are in the metre fornyrðislag. All stanzas are attributed in Hrólf to various protagonists in the saga, and have been treated as their compositions in this edition. Consequently they have been divided into single lausavísur or groups of lausavísur according to speaker.

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